So, we’ve been talking about belly fat in an ongoing series here at The Nourishing Gourmet. We’ve discussed why certain types of belly fat are very bad for your health, how stress can derail your health and give you a big belly, and discussed making decisions for a peaceful and nonstressful life. We’ve also discussed what dietary changes that could help specifically in preventing and losing belly fat.
I have either a series of short posts on stress-busters, or a long compilation post on how to deal with stress in our lives coming up. But meanwhile, there were a few other things on the subject of “big bellies” I felt important to discuss. Today we are going to discuss diastasis recti.
Sure, sometimes we get a big belly because of the way we eat or the stress in our lives. But there are other reasons too, and a really important one is our stomach muscles. Did you know that women, men, and even children can have the muscles start to separate in their stomach, making it pooch out to form a “big belly”? Unfortunately, certain common exercises can cause this separation to become even worse (and could even cause it in some people).
This isn’t just about vanity, people. This is about helping our muscles properly hold our organs in place and supporting our back, which is an important job! One of the leading experts on this topic is Julia Tupler, who has created a treatment protocol for this condition. On her website she gives symptoms of it, which include, “Back pain, poor posture, pelvic floor problems, gastro- intestinal disturbances like constipation and bloating are all symptoms that occur when the support system for the back and organs is the weak connective tissue instead of the muscles.”
She also says, “How do you know if you have a diastasis? If you have a protruding (pregnant looking) belly OR your belly button is an outie OR you have a half football (alien like) bulge when you lift your shoulders off the ground, you most definitely have a diastasis! An umbilical hernia is a side effect of a diastasis recti.”
Having diastasis recti can make women look pregnant and men look like they have a beer belly.
When I found out about this, I did the self-check of it (as I realized I had many of the symptoms) and I do indeed have diastasis recti. This was why I found that after bearing children, I always have a small “belly”, even when ten pounds underweight! It was really reassuring to find out that this common problem is fixable. While I haven’t put in the time that I need to heal my own yet, it’s on the agenda for this fall.
Sometimes when we see a “big belly” we think, “Oh, I need to lose weight!” But really, we just need to work on certain muscles. But it’s so important to work on this the right way. I do recommend Julia’s book, Losing the Mommy Tummy (Find this book, and her other ones at my affiliate Amazon) and her website, which also has other resources.
And if you are discouraged about having this condition, you need to go and look at the before and after pictures! This protocol really does make a huge difference!
To get an idea of some of the (easy) exercises you will do as part of the healing process, I pinned a few things on my Fitness Pinterest board. It’s not an overwhelming program at all. It’s basically doing about 15-20 minutes of specific exercises a day, avoiding certain movements that make it worse, and using a splint.
But I know some of my readers are well acquainted with this topic. Have you healed diastasis recti before? Do you think you might have it? What has been your experience?
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Thank you so much for bringing this subject to light. I was a little concerned when I began reading this series because people automatically feel that big bellies equals a bad diet. Diastasis recti and pelvic floor issues are so under diagnosed. I took a workshop with a physical therapist who specialized in women’s health. She showed us pictures of women with “flat” bellies that had diastasis recti. It’s actual appalling that women are not offered more postnatal services to that could help prevent prolapse and other health issues. Another book The Female Pelvis by Blandine Calais-Germain which has great exercises too.
You are so welcome! I suspect that many of us just suffer from diastasis – though some of us may have “bellies” because of a combination of factors (eating choices, stress, and diastasis recti equals a bad combination for many of us!)
Hi, Kimi! I have never posted here before, but I wanted to add some (hopefully) helpful tips about the diastasis recti topic. I am a homeschool mom to 5 children and a T-Tapp Personal Trainer. http://www.t-tapp.com/trainers/lindaosmond/index.html If you haven’t heard of this method of holistic fitness, I will briefly say that it is a brain/body wellness workout that rehabs joints and is lymphatic, without jumping or weights…but increases bone and muscle density and promotes inch loss (nothing to do with tap dancing!) 🙂
There are moves, designed by Teresa Tapp, exercise physiologist, that have proven to rehab diastasis recti (and prolapsed organs), and many T-Tappers have proven that it is possible! Some of the movements are called Organs in Place(OIP), Half Frogs(HF), Elevators(E), and the other is Mitten Chop Box. I realize that floor work should be limited with this condition and that activation of the core ab muscles needs to be mastered to help with the healing.
Here are some further links that might be helpful to you and your readers. This link is to a recent T-Tapp forum post that you might enjoy, regarding this topic. The responses include other links that might be helpful and informative, including a link to a Youtube of Teresa demonstrating the Mitten Chop Box. Now as a trainer, I can tell you there is more behind this move (all T-Tapp moves) than meets the eye. But you can glean from it and give it a try. Muscle activation is the key, and that takes practice. It is the key to the entire T-Tapp program, which is all isometric in nature.
Also, here is a link to a written version of those other exercises that I mentioned above. They are included on a DVD, but this is a free try-before-you-buy section of the website. Very nice! http://www.t-tapp.com/articles/flatstomach/index.html I’d love to hear about your experiences. If I can help anyone further, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for sharing! I’m so glad for others to share other resources as well. It’s good to have options. 🙂
LOVE T-Tapp! It’s an excellent program.
When I just can’t face exercise I do the primary back stretch, the very short (five minute?) intro into the basic workout. Sometimes that generates enough energy and momentum to do the next 10 minutes of the basic workout and even to finish the total workout.
I also recommend Katy Bowman’s Aligned & Well program. Her field is bio-mechanics, or the physics of human movement, and she has a program specifically designed for pelvic floor issues called Down There for Women. It’s a series of corrective exercises that don’t take much time out of the day. Her blog is also extraordinarily deep on the issues of bio-mechanics, natural movement and attachment parenting.
Thanks for sharing and the recommendations, Karen. 🙂
What happens if u Do something wrong while putting Organs back in place. Im scared to try this
Bc i dont want to mess anything up Inside my Body, But i need to Do something Bc Im tired of Looking like Im 3-4 months pregnant.
Oops. I forgot the link to the T-Tapp forum post. Sorry.
I need some motivation to do this. I’ve known about mine since my son was born a year and a half ago, and I still haven’t been able to keep with the exercises long enough to heal it. So many of my movements as a mother, especially trying to sneak away from a sleeping baby in bed after nursing to sleep put me in exactly the positions that make it worse. I do the exercises for a week or two, and I see improvement, and then I get busy. I don’t get it! I put in hours every day, day after day after day to feed myself and my family healthy foods, and I can’t keep my own exercise routine going for more than a few days. Last week, I got asked if I was pregnant for the first time when I wasn’t. I’m so underweight that I couldn’t even get pregnant right now! It’s time to do something about my abdominal separation… if only I could find my motivation!
I need motivation too! Maybe I should create some sort of challenge…..any ideas?
100 push ups challenge! Its fantastic and you’ll be doing the plank position the entire time which is perfect for strengthening the entire length of your abs. If you can’t do one push up, don’t worry…it really doesn’t take very long to get to one. My mum started the challenge at 64 years and she could hardly do push ups on her knees! She can now do sets of 20 proper push ups! Its addictive too. I found doing reverse push ups the easiest way to get to 1. So get into the plank position with arms in the right place to do a push up – so slighter wider than for a plank (do it near a mirror so you can make sure you’re aligned) then lower yourself to the ground as slow as you can. Do this until your arms are about to drop…or indeed when you find yourself crashing to the floor! Same again the next day etc. Holding the position half way down, where the elbow bends for aslong as you can is also good as its usually a weak area. Then, perhaps after a week of this try dropping down a little way and coming back up! Eventually you will be doing a complete push up. Took my mum 1 week. Get to a point where you can do 2 or 3 then go for the challenge.
Every single thing that I have read says that planks are horrible for Diastasis Recti. As are crunches and any other exercises that cause the stomache muscles to buldge. Please do your research.
Absolutely! My Doctor also says sit ups make this condition worse.
Have you heard about Fit 2 Be? http://www.fit2b.us
It’s an online fitness/workout site with many many workouts that are all tummy safe, Beth, the owner, is very focusing on bringing knowledge and information about diasistis to moms especially and creating workouts designed to heal and strengthen the core. She is a christian, stay at home mom, running this small business from her little farm (Kimi, she is kinda in your neck of the woods I think!).
Her website has lots of good information, and some free workouts, if you would like a discount code for joining to have access to all her workouts email me at email@example.com.
She has greatly helped me strengthen and heal my core, I have gone from a good 8+ separation to about a 2 or less in the last 4 months.
That’s great Jen! I have! I actually did her program for a little while, and liked it.
I really appreciate this post! I just gave birth to my 7th baby 2 weeks ago. I started learning about diastasis recti at the end of my pregnancy . I have never done anything to heal this after any of my previous pregnancies. Looking back, I’m sure I’ve had it since my first child was born, 11 years ago! I’ve never been able to get rid of the tummy though I’ve been underweight or at a normal weight much of the time. I’ve also had very bad low back pain for all of these years and I’m sure this is probably why. I started reading Maternal Fitness by Julia Tupler at the end of my pregnancy and that is when I learned about it. Anyway, I’m SO EXCITED to have a solution! I would really urge women to take care of this issue if you have it, especially before getting pregnant again. And, thank you Kimi for sharing this information!
I think it is a super common problem! I certainly wish I knew about it before I had children. 🙂 But better late than never, right?
Whilst i’m certain the issue is real I find it irritating that the solutions to these new found problems always seem to come with an enormous price tag. Its little wonder many people suffer from this as we spend most of our waking ours slumped in sofas or in office chairs. Look at the posture of young children before they become accustomed to sitting about all day – its perfect, they can sit with a straight back, on the floor, indefinitely. And their tummies (assuming they’re not overweight) are lovely and flat. We do stomach crunches to bring our tums back into line but that makes it worse! The problem was caused by curving the back for prolonged periods and therefore not engaging any abdominal muscles so its not going to be fixed by strengthening the muscles in a curved posture – crunches are NOT good. Leg raises are better, keeping the back aligned. Back bending is excellent and also hanging leg raises and the locust yoga position, the plank is fantasic! For mum’s, who perhaps don’t have the time or inclination to do a set workout just make small, daily, changes. We find ourselves on the floor with our kids a lot of the time anyway so just get into a better position. Lie on your tummy for a while, it will take the curve out of the spine, and raise the legs for a few seconds as you’re playing with the kids. Or get into the plank position and have your little one crawl under you as a game! I do the plank now with my 4 yr old lying on top of me for extra weight! In the kitchen, cooking dinner or whatever do a few gentle back bends – feet hip width apart, push the hips forward and allow the back and shoulders to move backwards until you feel the entire length of your abdominal muscles engaging…obviously don’t go too far or to a point where its painful. A few of those and you’ll know about it! Sit up in chairs, get a posture aid for the office etc. All these isolated movements we do, crunches that work only the lower abs or whatever, are idiotic! It needs to be ALL body movements. Its also common sense if you have even a little bit of body awareness, basically try and keep the skeletal system aligned as often as you can and compensate for the times you can’t. Getting out of the car after a long journey, or chopping wood etc. we naturally do back bends.
Kimi, thank you so much for this write up! I think it will be a light bulb for so many people. I’m a Pilates teacher and worked for years in a physical therapy practice. This is hugely common. I tell friends of mine who are pregnant, do not, DO NOT rush into doing any abdominal exercises post-partum until you see someone who knows about this issue because situps done improperly (as 99% are) can make it much worse. I’ve been thinking of doing a simple video to explain it and show the proper technique – the exercise are so targeted that they don’t take long and anyone can do them. I should be able to do a video in 4 minutes or less! When I do I’ll email you!
Please do! That sounds great. 🙂
Julia @ Swirls and Spice
I’ve been afraid to do anything about my really noticeable diastasis recti because I had heard that improper exercises can worsen things. Your video would be ever so helpful!
Thanks for covering this, Kimi. I had diastasis recti with the second, but didn’t know it, and it became awful after my third! I’ve tried some excercises, but it’s so hard to be intentional and stay consistent. Perhaps if I paid the money for the expensive programs, I’d be more consistent, but I’m not willing to cough up the money just yet! Although I shouldn’t be happy that I’m “not the only one”, I am thankful that there are others, and perhaps we can heal together. 🙂
I had diastasis recti after my 3rd kiddo, and healed it in 6 weeks with the help of Kelly Dean at the Tummy Team in Vancouver, WA. It helped other health issues fade or disappear as well. I HIGHLY recommend them and their program!!!
(Oh, and hi Kimi! Thanks for posting this! 😉
That’s great, Julie! So happy to hear that, and thanks for the recommendation. 🙂
Thanks for this post! For many (getting) older women like myself (almost 50!) who have had no idea that some of the problems we’re facing aren’t necessarily related to aging but rather to diastasis recti. Earlier this year I was referred to a physical therapist in Salmon Creek, WA, but to continue after the initial appointment was cost prohibitive since we’re self-employed without medical insurance. I’m excited to check out the links you provided here, Kimi. Thanks for always sharing such useful info here. 🙂
Hey thanks for posting about this. I am in the ranks of women who have DR and boy was I glad when I found out WHY my belly bulged even when I was at or below a healthy weight. I tried Tulper and a couple others, but the one that finally helped me was MUTU fitness. It is a wholistic exercise program that talks about eating right (very compatible with nourishing traditions/gaps) standing/sitting right, stress relief etc. and incorporates exercises designed to slowly and safely build core strength. Their website is mutusystem.com the programs are a bit spendy, but certainly nothing like a gym membership.
I’m so happy to know there is a name for this. I’ve been worried lately because my belly looked like I’m 4 or 5 months pregnant.
Before the age of the home internet I was very active even after having my 3 children and kept my back and posture in good shape with stretching and working out.
After home computers, my only stretching was to reach for my coffee on the desk.
3 years ago I started walking everywhere and changed my diet to more lemon water and herbal teas, with fruits and veggies and peanuts replacing the coffee and fast foods and sugar diet
I also began a home yoga tape daily for 6 months, i was in such good shape if not the best shape and health I’d ever been in my life. At age 45, I was told I didn’t look at day over 30, I had so much energy and great concentration and because I also battle with Bipolar, I felt more stable then I had my whole life. (I also feel my stability is from beginning to practice religion helping me in the cognitive struggle too) but it’s the total lifestyle change that changed me.
The summer of 2012 I started to slow down my routine and began to sit in front of the computer again, more and more everyday. I noticed weight gain but what I really noticed was my stomach not so much a bloated feeling but a pregnant look.
My back hurt all the time, my legs and I would use these excuses not to exercise or even go back to my yoga because the couple times I went back to try my yoga and after finishing the tape and pushing myself to the limit, the next day I felt in worse condition of pain so I would stop. I was tired all the time and couldn’t figure out why and thought it was just my age, now 2014 and 47.
I knew my pregnant look wasn’t from Uterine fibroid since I had a hysterectomy at 35 and thought maybe I should try a colon cleanse before I go to the doctor and be put through a series of uncomfortable tests.
So I decided to change back to my routine of exercise and get away from the computer. I did walking and this helped but my stomach was still looking big and I was very lethargic still. So putting my yoga back in my daily routine was the next option. This time I wasn’t going to push myself hard, just do everyday a little at a time so I don’t over work my muscles and just stop again, so the first day I put in my yoga tape, just crossed my legs normal instead of forcing overlapping them since I wasn’t flexible anymore and just started the first day with breathing.
Day 2, I did the same but added the mountain position, stretching upward and bending over and then into the down dog position. There are 3 reps of this. I also began to do my light housework right after while I felt stretched. Vacuum, even if I did the day before as this keeps the muscles going and wash the floors. I also became very aware of my posture on Day 2. I noticed when I was standing to cook or walk I would make sure my posture was in good position and I knew my stomach muscle and back were out of shape, because my back felt like I’m lifting weights and I am, I’m holding up my back and stomach muscles
Day 3, I did the same but went further into the tape with lunges and cobra, again after doing this, vacuum the rugs, wash the floors, other light housework
Day 4 after my light breakfast, I used the bathroom and it was like I just had what I could only think was like a colon cleanse, I think I must have dropped easy what seemed like 5 pounds out of my colon
I felt so light and I looked in the mirror after and that look of pregnant was gone! I still had a bit of stomach but that was definite a bit of droopy fat that needed toning.
I began my yoga tape again, going a bit further into my tape with the next segment of exercises, then shut it off.
My back doesn’t hurt or my muscles and my energy is much better as well as my concentration.
Although walking is always great, if we walk and our posture is not good we are still putting to much pressure on our intestines and back which must as I could only figure after my own case study, caused blockage or just a very lazy and twisted up colon.
The stretching of the yoga and with this stretching making me more aware when I’m standing or walking or even sitting to be in better posture I really believe helped my colon release what it was holding along with the toxins that must have been building up and what could have been causing my lack of energy.
a Healthy Diet of course is so important but even with a healthy diet if we’re not giving our intestines room for it to move through, it still gets blocked and enlarged. Although I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, just someone sharing her own experience.
Now I feel just by doing these few things that take some energy and motivation and daily routine just saved me from lugging myself to the doctor and going through many uncomfortable tests and the time to do them.
I still get my checks but now I don’t have to ask my doctor, is this pregnant looking stomach normal and him to say, No, lets run some tests …
Do your own test, … the Yoga stretch, aware of your posture test and see where that takes you …
I had a tummy bulge which turned out to be an impacted bowel, but didn’t know about till I got a back X-ray. I tried everything to clear it (enimas, stimulant laxatives, fibre, increased water), but with no result. The solution was; no more gluten, two pears and a probiotic for breakfast, but most importantly, taking 2 doses of Macrogol (Movicol) each morning and afternoon for 1week (reducing fibre intake during that time). Macrogol hydrated the impacted feces. At first I was less frequently emptying my bowels, but after a week it all came good and both new and impacted feces started to be expelled (distinctly different coloured). Dropped back to one dose a day for a month, so my bowel can shrink back to normal size. Each day I now eat about 30g of fibre (pears, beans, prunes, slipper elm powder etc), drink 3 litres of filtered water.
Before I was doing number twos every day or so, now it’s a few times a day – so it’s really made a big difference.
I also referred to the Bistol Stool Chart, as a guide. The aim being stools that are not to runny or too hard, so my bowel can move everything along, by adjusting the Movicol dose.
Now more food is coming out than going in, and my tummy is shrinking slightly each day, with no additional exercise. What I did notice was that I was urinating a lot more when I had an impacted bowel compared to now. Just drinking water and taking fibre didn’t work, I needed something that wouldn’t be absorbed along the way to the descending colon, and that was Movicol.
Where can I find a splint? I’m so tired of my DR… 🙁
Lacey, hi. I am finishing up the on-line diastasis therapy program at thetummyteam.com. I highly recommend it. They also sell splints, but keep in mind that the splints are designed to be used hand-in-hand with exercises to restore strength to your core, not to be the only component in helping you heal. I also recommend fit2b.us. Both sites and their blogs are great for information about DR and healing it.
Thank you so much for this article!!! It helped point me in the right direction in figuring out what was going on with me after my 3rd child was born. After reading the comments about The Tummy Team, I began their Core Rehab program. I’m just now finishing my program and wanted to come back to this initial article and echo those that have mentioned The Tummy Team. The program is wonderful and has made such a difference for me!!! I have seen lots of healing already and now feel like I have the tools to continue.
I see no mention of Celiac Disease, a very likely cause behind all mentioned symptoms. People with Celiac MUST NOT eat ANY Gluten. It destroys your ability to absorb nutrition, resulting in that big tummy effect that is typical of malnutrition. You can be overweight, underweight or a perfect weight & still have the belly, along with a host of other issues due to malnutrition and the neurological disorder impact Celiac has on the Central Nervous system.
Just Google Celiac. Take a symptoms survey at Celiac.com or one of the university Celiac research sites.
Most of what is covered in this informative article may still be a part of your condition, but treating the obvious symptoms will only be like a band aid on cancer if the underlying causes are not first addressed.
I am definitely going to explore these exercise options, because even doing my best, I still suffer from this huge tummy problem at times because years of undiagnosed Celiac has done me much harm. In September. I tried the new “Gluten Free” Cheerios, which turned out to have been hauled in a wheat truck. My insides are so swollen & distended, plus I’m keeping a bad cough, which has left me sore beyond words. I feel like I’m about to give birth to triplets and, and am so front heavy, I’m about to fall on my nose!
Here’s to a Happy New Year & healthier days ahead!
Hi,I had a umbilical hernia problem that ended with surgery. I had no pain, but my belly was like in fourth month of pregnancy for a couple of weeks and my belly button was swollen. Please guys educate yourself so you can prevent surgery or worsening of health ,this article is perfect example. Thanks for sharing these useful information’s, God bless you!